The week prior to the Fourth of July holiday weekend began as any, I really didn’t have any plans to celebrate and that’s normally when I get slammed with work. I received a message from a client that stated he wanted me to be on board a “pirate ship” to photograph it for an upcoming event website. I wasn’t sure what I would be doing or even where the boat was located. Once I received my instructions, my excitement built and I realized I would be getting to photograph a beautiful two-mast tall ship. I love tall ships as they epitomize a time when things were slower and so much calmer.
I arrived at the marina and simply waited for the Captain to tell me when we would be sailing, as we had to wait on the tide. Finally it was time to board and we headed into the Gulf of Mexico. Once we were out in the water, I transferred my gear and myself onto a chaser boat. we circled around and I was able to capture this beautiful ship in full sail. I heard from the owner/captain of the sail boat a few days later and he was extremely moved by the beautiful images of his beautiful Black Pearl. I was told this was the first time he had ever seen his vessel in full sail, and it was breath-taking. I’ll let you be the judge.
YES bassist Chris Squires (1948-2015)
First let me say the title of this blog post is a bit misleading. You see I am not in competition with anyone, I am a photographer who is confident in her work and who is constantly taking classes and being mentored by pro’s who have been doing it for a lot longer than I have. I feel this is a key element to my growth, I must continue learning; I also enjoy sharing my knowledge to those just beginning too.
Interestingly enough I recently was “accosted” on a facebook concert photography group because I stated I shoot so I don’t have to edit and was told that it was impossible to do, well I’m here to tell you 95% of my concert photos are straight out of camera. I do try to get it right in camera which saves editing time and I am able to get the photos placed in a gallery before the concert is a “past thought” and out of the mind of the fans. I am also a Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and various other social media user and it’s imperative that I follow the subject I am photographing. More than once this has paid off with my photo being shared and used within the social media world of the artist; this is a success to me.
Back to competition, I’m not speaking about online competitions which have no bearing to my photography or my over-all self-esteem. I don’t need to “prove” I am worthy to the general public, I receive that often with simply posting my photographs in social media. Nothing beats having artist management contact you to use your photos within their social media page! One day I am sure to venture in the world of photographic competition, but when I do it will be for something a lot more prestigious than a simply “attaboy” in an online gallery. The competition I am writing about is that which something deep inside says “I must be better than everyone else” or I am a failure. You see I had this mindset for a few years, thinking that everyone was so much better than I am. This sort of self-talk degrades a person’s self-esteem, trust me I have been the queen of negative self-talk. A couple of years ago it finally dawned on me, I don’t need to be in competition with anyone except myself; to challenge myself to become better and grow in knowledge of my camera and all aspects of photography. As soon as I changed this mindset I began to draw clients and create opportunities that few will ever realize in their life. I competed with myself and I am winning! I am in more venues that I could have ever imagined. I have been privileged to photographed rock bands, country artists and met some incredible people along the way. I have photographed happy brides and ladies diagnosed with cancer in their most vulnerable moments, and I have photographed some incredibly beautiful women who would not allow just anyone to take their photo; to me this is success and to think I didn’t have to enter any competitions to do any of this. Keeping a positive attitude and a smile on my face is my way of life. It’s amazing how many incredible people you draw into your life when you are positive and upbeat. Every single day I look at how far I have come in just a few short years and I am really excited about where my future will take me, I know it’s going to be somewhere great! Why do I know this? Because I am in competition with no one, but mysef.
Wind of Change
With all the controversy going on within social media lately it’s wonderful to be able to remove myself from it, even if for a short while and get out and shoot for myself. I did this yesterday at the park; the flowers were incredible.
This week I was asked to assist on a model shoot, no camera in hand, but I learned so much about off camera lighting using Speedlites and modifiers. It was fun to see someone work in high fashion and to be an integral part of it. I want to go out now and play using my two Canon Speedlites off camera. It was a wonderful learning experience and the photographer I worked with was incredible. I am really blessed in this area; I have gotten to know some incredible photographers, who know how to use their camera to create the look they are wanting. Sometimes I feel like a sponge soaking in knowledge that is making me better and more creative.
I am pleased with where I am in life, there is nothing I can’t accomplish and I will continue to grow and move forward. I am working more on marketing myself and getting my name “out there”. I have had a few set-backs, but nothing that I could not handle. I have realized that what I have to offer is of value and not everyone will see it and I’m perfectly Okay with that because I understand my style and price may not be for everyone; I’m not the most expensive photographer out there, but I’m not the cheapest either, and I’m fine with someone telling me I am too expensive, because I know I am not the photographer for them and sometimes you get what you pay for (or don’t pay for). However, the hurdle I have to overcome is when a potential client spreads the rumor that I am too expensive; how would they know what my value is to someone else? I am confident in my skills and those of my second shooter. These are simply character builders and it allows me to provide services to the type of clients I am looking for; those who value the meaning of their photographs whether it’s portraits, commercial or even weddings. I will never compromise or devalue myself just to score the job, it’s not fair to myself or to my potential clients.
Life is definitely working in my favor and I am meeting great people every single day. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. I get to do what I love and share it with others.
On another sad note, the music world lost an incredible bassist. Chris Squires from YES passed away yesterday from cancer. My thoughts go out to this band and the members. I was fortunate enough to photograph Chris and YES last year in St. Petersburg, FL. RIP Chris Squires you will surely be missed.
One of my life’s greatest achievements are my children. I have two grown boys 31 & 28 and I take delight in what wonderful young men they are. I don’t see my oldest too often, but he holds the place in my heart where I was hurting most. During the last few weeks of my pregnancy I lost my dad and Jimmy came along a week (to the day) later. He kept my mind occupied and I was able to move forward with life. He is my first born and is an incredible athlete and loves the outdoors and strikingly handsome, at the age of 11 a young lady from his school class came to me and said “Mrs. Owen Jimmy is so fine” and I would have to agree he’s is fine in all areas, he’s a great man. Three years and three months later, my life was completely turned upside down once again with the birth of the cutest little blonde blue-eyed guy….Tommy was early and from a really difficult pregnancy and I wasn’t sure if either of us was going to make it. Make it we did and he was so full of vim & vinegar. Always into something and taking life by the horns. We were told when he was little that he would grow up to do great things…..and he has; In his 28 years so far he has been on a PBS Zoom program based on the Everglades and it’s still featured on the teacher’s portion of the PBS website. He’s was sent to an environmental camp for Hispanic kids (he’s NOT Hispanic), and he went back the following year to film it. He’s paddled the entire Mississippi River not once but twice by kayak and canoe, second time alone with his dog. He wrestled a 10 foot Python out of the water, lived to tell about it and is a featured article in the 2105 Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Special Edition and he’s an incredible photographer and guide in the region he grew up in. I spend the most time with him, because he’s closest. It was no different this Mother’s Day. I went down to visit him and his boss surprised him by giving him the entire day off to spend with me. We began the day with a picnic lunch at Turner River Road and then took a short drive down the road to see if anything interesting was out. We continued from there to the Fakahatchee (where he grew up) and walked down a newly forged path and so glad we did. He has a keen eye for wildlife and is always looking at his surroundings for the live and interesting. This time around he spotted something that seemed out of place, it was the entire skeleton carcass of a very large deceased alligator. We surmised it was the remains from the emaciated alligator we had seen a few months prior, one we thought had already died. Even though it was not in the same pond area, we felt it had moved to find deeper water and breathed it’s last in this area. The bones were pretty much intact and some were a little scattered due to scavengers on the body, but the bones were clean and the head and jaws were massive. We had a bit of creative inspiration with the head and I was able to get some great photographs of the alligator and of my extremely photogenic son.
Recently I was told I needed to write a book. This is something I have contemplated more than a few times, but I don’t know if I have what it takes to write interesting enough words someone else will want to read. Okay, yes I write this blog but it’s about things that are happening to me within my photographic experiences and I’m not sure what to write in book form. Do I take my life experiences and go with that (limited as they are), or do I write fiction? My life is a bit boring, so not sure what fascinating things I could come up with to share with other’s enough to get people to pick up a book and read. I’m a normal person, I don’t have grand adventures and I don’t visit exotic places. I choose to stay in my area and to go out once in a while and take photos. I guess if it’s something I’m meant to do, then it will happen so for now I will think about the subject matter and wait for the inspiration to hit me.
It was a dark and stormy night…………..
God’s Light Show
I made a decision over two years ago to work toward becoming a full time photographer. Life events changed and I needed to see if it was something I could do on my own. I set some small goals and took a year to see if I really could make it in this world of younger, more beautiful work. Of course that notion is one self-perceived and I have found my work speaks for itself. I went into 2015 with some specific goals in mind and then I was approached about the possibility of opening a studio. That’s a bit scary because I am not sure how I would actually fund that venture, so instead I am scaling back and reassessing my goals. I belong to a women’s group called National Association of Christian Women Leaders, Inc. (NACWL) and the past few months we have been talking about a vision of moving on, moving up, and moving out. I have taken the first step in all this with the moving on. I actually moved on very quickly because I had already made that decision months prior to actually doing it. As difficult as it was I felt it was something I was being led to do. That’s when I decided on the year of rebuilding and finding my footing again. I am now in the process of moving up. I re-evaluated the goals I had set in a five year plan (which has been accelerated) and I’m collecting the information I need to become a business owner, by doing research, talking with other photographers and relying on my mentor and friend who is an extremely successful small business owner and one who gave me stellar advice which I am implementing and I trust him explicitly, he sugar coats nothing and I adore him for that. He’s only a phone call away and if I need to talk something out, he’s there to listen and to help me see things a bit differently and to give me a reality check. I’m currently in phase one of creating an intimate in house studio in a small room in my small odd shaped apartment. During phase two I will be helped by a friend who is incredibly talented when it comes to ideas and construction (so glad I don’t have to rely on my own strengths for this). I know I can rely on him to help me decide the best method for rigging my drops and creating movable V-flats; another gem of a friend who has championed me through some decisions by helping me to look at things differently. I believe I will be in the moving up portion for a longer period of time than I was with the moving on portion. I know God has a hand in my life by the way things are moving, because there is no way I could be doing any of this without his guiding hand. I know that he has placed some incredibly positive people in my life to encourage me and love on me and to help me, and he’s brought me to a group of women leaders of whom I can learn and glean incredible knowledge from and gain a huge network of support. And to think this all came about with a ride on the back of a horse and some tough questions I needed to answer.
As a woman who sets goals for herself I work toward those goals through a timeline of individual ways of reaching those goals. Last year I wrote out a five year plan and as I completed the first year I realized I have begun a life that will allow me to be working for myself and enjoying my many passions. This is the year to really establish myself as a photographer and market myself and actually make an income. I have also decided what type of photography I want to work in. I want to photograph weddings, portraiture; especially women and of course my events and concerts. I feel that this is where I do my very best work and I am so incredibly passionate about these avenues.
It’s not easy when people don’t value my time or effort and think all I do is “push a button”. They forget the time spent in preparation of the work, time spent actually photographing and all the post work that goes into the captured images. I belong to several online groups where I am able to share my frustrations and gain some input into how to handle those clients who don’t understand I’m creating a lifetime of memories for them. What I do is unique to me and I only put out my best work to the clients. In this day and age anyone with a digital camera is a photographer, but I would like to think my lifetime of experience sets me apart from those who have never looked through a viewfinder until they purchased their first basic DSLR. It’s incredibly frustrating to have someone tell me how wonderful my work is yet they feel they can cheapen what I do by wanting me to lower my prices for them. If I am going to make a living doing this, I need to help my clients to understand my value.
Being the daughter of a professional photographer I grew up understanding the basics of what it takes to make an incredible photograph, and the lessons learned in that darkroom have manifested into how I see and process the images I take. I view things as a painter of light and I can see composition in the simplest of ideas. I know a few photographers who take incredible photographs simply with their cell phones and yes I call them photographers because they understand light and composition and see things so uniquely, they are constantly producing some of the most creative images I have ever seen. The camera is simply an instrument of what the eyes see and the heart feels.
My job as your photographer is to creative an image that first tells a story and second will leave a legacy to your family and lastly to make you feel and look incredible no matter if you are male or female. You cannot put a value on that. Anyone who has taken photos of their children understand this concept. When people lose their homes to flood or fire or some natural disaster they first thing they either take with them or look for is their photographs, why? Because many of those photographs are from an era that has passed and it’s all they have left of a loved one. I am so honored to have many of the photographs my father took and those from my mother’s family.
So when you see my work and you visit my menu of services, remember the value of those photographs, they are my passion and understand my frustration when you undervalue your legacy.